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The Female Protagonist Dilemma

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I’ve got an idea for a new story in the sword noir genre. I decided to use an existing character and started writing. Then I thought, no, this should be set in Everthorn, the default setting for my Sword Noir RPG, and so I should use the two iconic heroes of that setting – my little homage to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

And then I thought – wow, I have no female protagonists.

By Michael Kormarck for the Magic: The Gathering TCG, Conflux expansion
By Michael Kormarck for the Magic: The Gathering TCG, Conflux expansion

Is this a problem? Kind of, yeah. I have two daughters that I want to grow up to be geeks. Doesn’t every daddy want to see their best attributes mirrored in their children? I consider my geekery a good attribute. It’s brought me tons of enjoyment and very little grief.

As a kid, a few years older than my eldest now, I could revel in fantasy adventures. There were plenty of cool characters with whom I could identify – lots of cool dudes doing cool shit in the fantasy genre, right? With whom can my girls identify?

I read stories with female protagonists, but I scan my bookshelves and realize I have only a few novels that fit this description. And other than a series of “fairy” books my daughter loves, her fantasy stories are all boy-centric. Does she identify with these male characters? And one’s a mouse, so there’s a species as well as a gender gap . . .

So, yes, I want to write female protagonists. Sword noir is not a genre I imagine my daughters will be getting into for a few years, so I have some time to compile a collection they might actually enjoy – if they aren’t too embarrassed reading stuff written by their daddy – but this then leads to my next quandary.

Can I write a good female protagonist?

I honestly don’t know. I fear that I cannot. I fear that she will be simply a dude wearing the body of a woman.

One tactic I can use to avoid this pitfall is extremely limited third-person point of view narration. Stay out of the inner monologue and I think I can do a good enough job writing a female character. I have lots of female friends, and the pack I ran with when I lived in South Korea was composed of me and three women. My best dude friend lived a 90-minute drive away. I wonder, though, if I could ever master the interior monologue. I would always be seeking approval and any hint that I was messing it up would probably drive me into a retreat.

I really don’t want to culturally appropriate, and to me, that includes woman.

Still, this is something I want to do, and likely a lot of my fears are overblown. We’ll just have to see.

The next hurdle? Young adult fiction, because I want to write stuff for my girls, and my six-year old is already reading YA.

I’m so proud of my kids. Does it show?

You can learn more about Sword Noir: The Role-playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery here.

You can learn more about my Everthorn heroes here.

I found the great pic at the Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor tumbler, here.